Don’t Forget: Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Wednesdays Begin May 4 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

by Jon D. B.
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Starting May 4, the NPS driving loop around Cades Cove will become “vehicle-free” every Wednesday through September 28, so plan accordingly!

Few memories spark joy like driving Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM). One of the most famous aspects of the most visited national park in the world, Cades Cove tends to fill bumper-to-bumper on a daily basis. To alleviate, the park hosts “Vehicle-Free Wednesdays” throughout the busy season.

On these Wednesdays, no vehicles are allowed to drive Cades Cove Loop Road. Instead, the loop is reserved for cyclists and foot traffic only. The result is a far more serene, peaceful, and clean hump day trip around the cove.

How to Plan for Vehicle-Free Wednesdays in Cades Cove:

  • Each Wednesday from May 4 to September 28, vehicles will not be allowed to travel Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Bring proper walking wear to traverse the road on foot
  • Or, if you’re cycling, be sure to wear a helmet. The State of Tennessee requires that children under the age of 16 wear a helmet.
  • Parking is sparse and is first-come first-serve. As soon as parking fills, guests will need to explore a different area of the park
  • Plan to visit in the afternoon and early evening to be able to park and visit the cove
  • Bicycles are available for rent at the campground store near the Cades Cove Campground on a first-come, first-served basis. For information call 865-448-9034

As the park cites Thursday, Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to enjoy the Cades Cove Loop Road on Vehicle-free Wednesdays beginning May 4 through September 28, 2022. Participants should plan to visit in the afternoons and early evenings to spread use out throughout the day.

Visitors fill the parking lot at Cades Cove before taking to the vehicle-free loop. Photo credit: GRSM, NPS media release.

As GRSM’s image above shows, parking on-site in the Cades Cove parking lot is often a challenge. The lot generally fills to capacity during the early morning hours, so be sure to plan your summer visits accordingly.

GRSM Prepares for Vehicle-Free Wednesdays with On-Site Volunteers and Staff

When visiting, be sure to abide by all park rules and regulations. Staff and volunteers will be managing on-site parking to improve visitor safety, minimize impacts to campground operations, and eliminate roadside parking on non-durable surfaces

Whenever visitors park off durable surfaces or designated areas, damage occurs to the national park. Roadside parking damages shoulders and also creates unsafe conditions for visitors walking from their car to their destination.  When parking lots are full, visitors will need to come back later in the day or enjoy other areas of the park.

For cyclists, please properly prepare for a safe Cades Cove experience. “Serious cycling accidents have occurred along the Cades Cove Loop Road. The State of Tennessee requires that children under the age of 16 wear a helmet,” the park states.

All riders should wear helmets and to ride properly fitted and well-maintained bicycles. During summer and fall, bicycles are available for rent at the campground store near the Cades Cove Campground on a first-come, first-served basis. For information, call 865-448-9034.

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